The author recently returned from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, where she attended the tenth World Hindi Conference. While a detailed report on that event appears under Communitylink, she makes here a case for promoting Hindi as a language of importance among the members of the growing Hindi-speaking community.
Hindi is one of 150 languages spoken in New Zealand. The Indian population has steadily increased in recent years, from Fiji, India, Kenya, South Africa, United Kingdom and a smaller number from Tanzania and East Africa. This has meant an increase in the Hindi speaking population.
The Census data 2013 shows that there has been an increase of approximately 22,000 Hindi speakers since the 2006 census, raising the number to 66,312 and making Hindi the fourth most spoken language in New Zealand. Of this, 49,518 speakers live in Auckland, the largest and most culturally diverse city in New Zealand.
Amongst the Indian population, Hindi is the second-most common language spoken. This proportion is an increase from 2006 (41.3%). The census also highlights that those born in New Zealand were less likely than those born overseas to speak Hindi, at 18.5% and 48.6% respectively.
Research shows that a language begins to decline about five years after migration, while it takes one generation to lose a language it takes a mammoth three to revive it.
While the population is exposed to Hindi through the internet, media, movies, TV and radio, and recently a small publication (Indianz x-Press), there is no formal status in the national curriculum. Those who want to maintain or learn Hindi may enrol in community based language schools. The profile of these learners includes children and adults who may fall into one or more of the following categories: Interested in learning another language, Want to enjoy Hindi movies, Have a partner who speaks Hindi, Want to do business in India, Want to travel in India and Want their children to learn Hindi.
The learner profiles of Hindi schools in New Zealand include children who are born in New Zealand or migrated with their parents, may have a parent from another culture or may be a youth or adults, including those who have missed the opportunity, as a child, to learn Hindi.
All community based Hindi schools have some form of a framework and guidelines to work with. Some have engaged experts and developed their own curriculum to suit the New Zealand environment, while setting general educational standards.
Resources to match the individual curriculum requirements are a challenge to obtain or to develop in an environment where the schools are run entirely on volunteer basis. While we obtain books from India and Fiji, we need to develop some very basic resources to supplement the printed material from home countries. The Indian government, through their High Commission has donated books to support the schools.
With the leaps and bounds technology has made, ICT wizards have created software (including transliterations), apps, programmes, stylised Devanagari fonts etc. Today Hindi in any form – movies, TV serials, TV news, newspaper, is available at a click.
This has the potential to keep educators up with the trends and help with professional development. However, although New Zealand is known for its uptake of internet and being techno savvy, we are way-off taking advantage of such developments.
To support and fulfil the aspirations of families’ and learners, we rely on the altruism of many volunteers, working on shoestring in terms of resourcing including place, people and funds.
We are working towards developing a framework to utilise the potential of a blended approach to teaching and learning Hindi. We will use the expertise available to make Hindi accessible to the younger generations and strengthen their bond to Indian culture and heritage.
Our aim is to realise the vision and aspirations of the learners, educators and the community.
Sunita Narayan is the Coordinator of the Wellington Hindi School based in Wellington.